Hey! It’s Friday! Today’s topic is all about Medieval siege weapons. Senior year of high school, I had to do a project containing something having to do with the Middle Ages. My teacher gave us a list a list of different topics to choose from, and I just happened to pick siege weapons. I had to build something, write a paper about it, and create a poster. I built a Mangonel, which to the layperson is also known as a catapult. Below is a picture of my finished product. In class, after I presented, we even got to launch a few projectiles at my teacher’s chalkboard. Those projectiles were just tennis balls, but in Medieval Europe, anything could become a projectile. Yes, even you. I have also included, for your enjoyment, the two-page essay I had to write.
Siege Weapons of Medieval England
The period of time known as the Middle Ages started shortly after the “fall of Rome in 476 CE” and lasted to “the beginning of the Renaissance during the 14th century” (“Middle Ages”). There are many types of siege weapons that were used in England during the Middle Ages. There were three main types of siege weapons, which included the Ballista, the Mangonel, and the Trebuchet. They all play an important role in the in the history of warfare in the Middle Ages. Each one had a specific and important use in battle.
One type of siege weapon was the Ballista, which was a giant crossbow. According to the website lordsandladies.org, “the Ballista was designed to aim huge wooden, iron clad, darts or arrows”, and was “based on a huge dart-throwing machine”(“Catapults”). It would shoot arrows or darts at the enemy with “deadly accuracy” along a flat trajectory (“History of Catapults”). “The Ballista was designed to have great penetration and were capable of skewering two or more enemies at one time” (“Ballista”). However, according to Wikipedia and “History of Catapults,” the Ballista “lacks the power of a Mangonel or Trebuchet”. The Ballista was “introduced to England in 1216 during the Siege of Dover – as were many other types of siege weapons”, according to lordsandladies.com and History Wars Weapons. There is a smaller version of the Ballista called a Springald. It was more compact and could be used inside castles or towers. The Springald was more of an anti-personnel weapon, unlike the Mangonel.
The Mangonel is the catapult. It was used to throw “heavy projectiles” at “fortresses, castles, and cities with a range of up to 1,300 feet” (“Catapult”, Wikipedia). According to the website ancientfortresses.org, projectiles that were used included “stones; sharp wooden poles and darts; fire; casts of burning tar; burning sand; pots of greek fire; dung; diseased, sometimes mutilate bodies” and many others. The projectiles “were thrown in an overhead arc as opposed to a straight trajectory” and “was able to throw missiles farther than a Trebuchet” (“Mangonel”). Even though the Mangonel has more power than the Ballista, it lacks the accuracy of both the Ballista and the Trebuchet.
The Trebuchet was “probably the most powerful catapult employed in the Middle Ages” (“Catapult”, Wikipedia). According to ancientfortresses.org, the Trebuchet “was capable of hurling stones weighing 200 pounds with a range of up to about 300 yards”. It was used “for hurling heavy stones to smash castle or city walls” (“Trebuchet”).
Trebuchets are made up of a lever and a sling. Early Trebuchets used people to power the weapon, which were later replaced with the weights that worked the same way.
Siege weapons were made on a need to order basis and many of which were built on the battlefield. Each type of siege weapon had a different reason for being built. The Ballista was used for shooting darts at the enemy. The Mangonel and Trebuchet were used to throw huge stones and other objects at castle and city walls. The use of these siege weapons continued well into the Renaissance period along with the use of newer siege weapons.
“Catapult.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catapult>.
“Catapults.” Catapults. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2015. <http://www.lordsandladies.org/catapults.htm>.
“History of Catapults.” Physics of Catapults. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2015. <https://sites.google.com/site/physicsofcatapults/home/history-of-catapults>.
“Mangonel.” Mangonel. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2015. <http://www.ancientfortresses.org/mangonel.htm>.
“Middle Ages.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2015. <http://www.history.com/topics/middle-ages>.
“Ballista.” History Wars Weapons. N.p., 7 Feb. 2009. Web. 29 Jan. 2015. <http://historywarsweapons.com/ballista/>.
“Trebuchet.” Trebuchet. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2015. <http://www.lordsandladies.org/trebuchet.htm>.
Well, I guess that’s all for today. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below. I will see you all on Monday for another mystery post. Oh, by the way, Sunday there’s a concert at Stanley Park in Westfield. It’s supposed to be nice, so be there or be square. It’s 6 pm to 8 pm. Anywho, TTNF!